General News / November 7, 2022

Instagram introduces face-scanning age verification requirement

Image: Unsplash
General News / November 7, 2022

Instagram introduces face-scanning age verification requirement

Words: Ellen Kenny

If you made your Instagram account when you were underage and never changed it back, good luck to you.

Instagram is introducing AI technology to verify the age of users in the UK and EU as part of a major safety update.

Starting today, anyone who tries to edit their date of birth on Instagram from under 18 to over 18 will be asked to verify their age by recording a video selfie which will be analysed by independent age estimation technology.

Instagram said the new system would help ensure users were having an “age-appropriate experience” on the platform.

Instagram are working with UK technology firm Yoti, which uses its artificial intelligence to analyse facial features and then share an age estimation with Instagram. Yoti says they have developed AI that can calculate the age of under 20s within a range of one and a half years. Imagine the absolutely humbling experience of being told by AI you don’t look like an adult.

Yoti’s own data suggests its AI is generally worse at verifying the ages of women and girls, as well as people with darker skin. Research has also shown that AI has trouble recognising faces that aren’t in official passport photos or mugshots.

Privacy on Instagram

Instagram explains that Yoti’s technology is not facial recognition technology and therefore cannot identify anyone – only estimate the age of the face it is shown. No account details are shared with Yoti during this process and the image is instantly deleted by both Yoti and Instagram after the age has been estimated, the companies promise.

Yoti chief policy and regulatory officer Julie Dawson said, “Our facial age estimation is a privacy-preserving solution. We built it to give everyone a secure way to prove their age without sharing their name or an ID document.”

Between this new feature and the face-scanning technology in most nowadays, we put a lot of faith in our phones and the promise that our privacy is protected. At least Instagram isn’t charging €8 a month to allow users to have their age verified.

Instagram previously trialled a “vouching” system, in which mutual followers confirm the age of a user, but now users with no friends are also in the clear.

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